A status update on bus rapid transit system plans drew a lukewarm reception from Upcounty residents during an open house Thursday.
Master Planner Lawrence Cole, who led the presentation at the in Germantown, said a countywide bus rapid transit system would ease pervasive traffic congestion. Bus rapid transit (BRT) is similar to light rail, except that it is operated on county roadways.
But of the 16 corridors proposed, only two prongs stretched north, east of Interstate 270 and just shy of Damascus. Much of the criticism came from Damascus and Clarksburg residents who were unconvinced BRT would improve their weekday commutes.
“It sounds like a Ride-On bus turbo charged a little bit,” said Barry Fantle, a Clarksburg resident who commutes to Fairfax, Va. He said the trip has taken as long as two and a half hours to complete. “I just don’t see how this would be better.”
After the meeting, Fantle and his wife, Lynn Fantle, who is president of the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee, said they were supportive of BRT but were doubtful the proposed travel zones would make traffic better up north.
Michael Flood, of consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhof, said density wasn’t high enough to justify expanding BRT services. Some commuters, Flood said, might find a more viable option in the planned Corridor Cities Transitway, which would link Shady Grove Road to the COMSAT building.
Cole said a timeline hasn’t been set for the BRT system's completion, though their reports were based on development expected to be in place by 2040.
During the presentation, Cole described an elaborate bus system that shared features of a metro train — ground-level boarding, off-board ticketing and long distances between stops. The routes would rely mostly on existing right of way, spanning 150 miles in a 14-hour circuit.
A preliminary study put the cost of creating such an extensive system at between $2.3 billion and $2.5 billion. The county received a $260,00 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to fund preliminary studies.
Cole said planners expect to present a methodology report to the Montgomery County Planning Board on Dec. 15.
Dale A. Tibbitts, chief of staff for councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large), also attended the open house.